How to Patch Scratches and Small Holes in Hardwood Floors

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Every type of flooring takes a beating from shoes, kids, pets, and moving furniture. At some point, even hardwood floors show signs of wear and tear. Scratches and small holes in hardwood floors draw in the eye and might be causing you stress too. It’s spendy to bring in a professional for small repairs, though, so consider doing the work yourself to fix those scratches.

It doesn’t matter what hardwood flooring you have: maple, walnut or mahogany; bamboo or oak. The process for patching is the same, and typically includes using a filler of some sort.

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Step 1 – Investigate the Scratch

First, take a closer look and and make sure the imperfection is really a scratch. Sometimes a mark may look worse than it is. If you are able to determine whether the scratch is only on the wood or the entire piece of wood, do so.

Step 2 – Fix Scratches

Superficial scratches can typically be buffed out. Use a furniture cleaner or wood restoration oil.

To fix deeper scratches, you’ll need to fill them in following the directions for fixing holes below. A wax repair tool made for this purpose is your best defense. Choose a color that is similar to your wood. If the paste wax won’t stick to your finish, you’ll have to move on to another tactic.

Fillers may be required. Make sure to find the right one. While latex fillers can be found, they won’t hold stains. They are best suited for very small holes, such as nail holes, or gaps that are deep.

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Epoxy filler is another option that’s a little more work, as it requires mixing together two ingredients to create the compound. It’s shrink and crack resistant, so it makes a good choice for filling cracks. Like latex, epoxy fillers don’t work well with stain, so make sure you choose a color that matches your flooring. For the best match, use sawdust from your flooring and mix it with glue to make your own filler.

For areas with large scratches, use a sander to bring the surface down to the existing flooring. Start with 100-grit and finish with 150-grit or 200-grit. Always sand in the direction of the wood grain and feather out the edges slightly to blend in with the surrounding floor.

WARNING: For safety, always wear a dust mask, gloves, and a pair of goggles when sanding.

When you’re done, you’ll need to refinish that section of flooring, which is perhaps the most difficult part of hardwood flooring repair. If your repair spot is large, you may want to wait until you’re refinishing the entire floor to make your repairs, or call in a professional that can match both your stain color and finish style. To do it yourself, you’ll want to know whether your finish is urethane or wax so you can match it with your repair.

sanding a wood floor

Step 3 – Sand the Holes

Hardwood flooring can start wearing away as time passes, and you may start to notice small holes in the wood. These indentures can be cleaned with a piece of folded sandpaper. Make sure the edge of the sandpaper is pointed.

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It’s important to smooth the edges so the repair materials stick to raw wood rather than a finish on the flooring. Use a hair dryer or burst of air from a compressor to blow dust out of the hole or task a shop vac with the job.

Step 4 – Apply Wood Putty

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Choose a wood filler that matches the color of your hardwood floor. Use a putty knife to put the putty into the holes in small quantities, and press it down so it fills the holes completely. You will have a small mound of putty.

Check and read the manufacturer’s instructions to see how long you should wait for the putty to dry thoroughly. It typically takes around 24 hours. Use sandpaper to smooth the bump down until it’s level with the surrounding floor.

applying wood putty to a floor

Step 5 – Stain the Floor

For those fillers that accept stain, use a sponge brush to apply it to the area where you filled the hole. Allow the stain to dry for one day before applying two coats of polyurethane glossy.

Use the sponge brush again and allow the gloss to dry overnight. The gloss will shine when it dries. Sand lightly the area. The spot should be kept closed for at least two days to allow the hardwood floor to fully cure before it can be used again.

Step 6 – If the Damage Is Too Bad, Replace the Board

When the damage is too extensive for an easy repair, it’s better to remove and replace the damaged wood. To do this, use a hammer and chisel to create a straight line cut across the board. You can then remove any pieces by using a circular saw or another type of saw.

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Clean out the empty section and ensure your end cuts are straight so the new piece sits flush on both ends. To allow the board to lower into its place, remove the groove section at the lower end. You must ensure that your tongue fits into the groove on the new board. Then install your new board and finish it with stain and sealer to match your existing floor.

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